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Aspen: The Trembling Tree
by Swapna Dutta

Have you heard anyone say that somebody is “trembling like an aspen leaf?” It’s become a common saying because aspen leaves flutter and “tremble” in the slightest of breezes.

There is a story that tells us that when Jesus Christ was crucified, his cross was made from an aspen tree. The tree was filled with grief and remorse as a result and all aspen trees have trembled and quivered ever since. It is the only tree that is said to tremble but never bend at the strongest of winds. There is yet another legend popular in Germany that tells us that long, long ago when the Holy Family – Joseph, Mary and Jesus – were walking in the forest all the trees bowed down in respect. But the aspen tree did not bow. So nature cursed the tree, saying it would tremble all its life.

Aspens belong to the willow family. The trees were certainly known before the days of Jesus as you find them mentioned in the Psalms. We read about aspens growing on the banks of the Euphrates River. They also grew in Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and the Jordan valley. The willow family belongs to the Northern Hemisphere – that means northern part of the globe. You also find them high up in the mountains, in the Himalayas and elsewhere.

Aspens have a smooth, gray-green bark, and rich green leaves that are shiny dark green on top, and pale green below. But the leaves turn bright yellow at fall.  They have pointed tips. The leaves of the American aspen are larger. They are also a little more rounded with coarse-toothed leaves. They are mostly known as “Quaking Aspen” or “Trembling Aspen.”

Aspens can grow to a height of 90 feet or more. They grow in a variety of climates. But they grow best where there’s plenty of sunlight and water.

The quaking aspen is the most widely spread broadleaf tree in North America. You even find them in the freezing Arctic Circle, across Canada, and the Sierra Madre in Mexico.
They are often used for garden landscaping as they are so tall and look so majestic.
They grow very fast. They are often planted in clumps. Or along a driveway.

Aspen forests are very important. They easily grow in a burned-out area. Aspen roots are very sturdy and don’t die even when there’s a fire. When the leaves fall in autumn it makes the soil very rich. It’s also good for other plants that grow there.

Aspen trees provide food for many animals, especially the elk and deer.

Did you know that one of the longest living trees in the world is an aspen tree in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah? It is said to have 41,000 trees growing from one rootstock. That means the entire forest is made of just one tree with many parts.

The trembling of the aspen tree has been compared to the wagging tongues of women! Some poets have stated that the tree symbolizes lamentation because it seems to sigh all the time. Can you think of any other interpretation? 

Image Courtesy : salk.edu

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The Comely Cactus  

4-Dec-2005
 
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